arrive / come / get / reach

Come is a general word used for entering a current place. It can be used for coming from short distances or long distances. My sister lives in London, but next week she’s coming to visit me in Atlanta. Our neighbors are coming over for dinner tonight. Come here – I want to show you something….

as far as / as long as / as soon as

Use as long as for: Time – when talking about a long period: – “I’ll stay with you as long as you want.” A condition that is a requirement: – “You can go to the party as long as you’re back by 11 PM.” Use as soon as for: Time – when one thing happens…

allow / let / permit

These verbs all have the same meaning. The difference is in their grammatical structure: LET + PERSON/THING + VERB (base form – without “to”) Examples: I don’t let my kids watch violent movies. Mary’s father won’t let her adopt a puppy because he’s allergic to dogs. Our boss doesn’t let us eat lunch at our…

imply / infer

To imply something means to suggest it in an indirect way, without saying it directly. Larry’s remarks implied that he’d be leaving the company soon. The evidence seems to imply that the suspect is innocent of the crime. To infer something is to form a conclusion from the information available (especially if the information available…

chance / possibility / opportunity

With the verb have, always use opportunity. The word possibility is more often used with “there is”: There’s a possibility I might move to England next year. I have the opportunity to work in my company’s London office. Also, possibility is neutral – it means maybe the event will happen, and maybe it will not…

already / yet

Both yet and already are used with the present perfect tense. Already is usually used in positive sentences. Yet is usually used in questions and negative sentences. Imagine that you and your friend are going to travel. There are many things to do, and you ask your friend if he has done these things: Have…

could / should / would

Use should and shouldn’t to ask for and give advice and suggestions: “I’ve had a really bad headache for the past week.” “That’s not good – you should go to the doctor.” “I want to make more friends, but I don’t know how.” “First of all, you shouldn’t spend so much time on the computer….

persons / peoples

In everyday English, the plural form of person is people: One person came to the English class. Two people came to the English class. The word peoples means two or more people groups: There are various indigenous peoples living in the Amazon. Many different languages are spoken among the peoples of Africa. The word persons…

explore / exploit

To explore (verb) is to investigate or travel to a new area in order to discover things. Exploration is neutral: The satellite will explore the area outside our solar system. We are exploring the possibility of a business partnership. To exploit (verb) is to take advantage of something, usually in a selfish or unethical way….

every day / everyday

Everyday (one word) is an adjective to describe something else: It’s easy to get stressed out by everyday problems. (everyday describes problems) These shoes are great for everyday wear. (everyday describes wear) When talking about how frequently something occurs, use every day (two words): I study English every day. I walk my dog every day.

ago / back / before

Ago and back are used for past times from the present moment: I graduated from high school ten years ago. (ten years in the past from today) We sent the package three days ago. (three days in the past from today) I moved here about five years back. (informal – five years in the past…

beside / besides

Beside is a preposition of location – it means “next to” or “on the side of.” There’s a printer beside the computer. However, “beside” is a little bit formal. In casual everyday English, we’d usually say that there’s a printer next to the computer. Besides is an adverb that means “in addition to”: Besides being…

relation / relationship

Relationship can describe a connection between two people (this connection may be romantic or not): I’ve been dating my boyfriend for three years. We have a great relationship. He has a terrible relationship with his father. My sister and I have a good relationship. Both relationship and relation can describe connections between two things or…

whoever, whatever, whichever, however, whenever and wherever

These words mean ‘it doesn’t matter who’, ‘it doesn’t matter what’, etc. They are conjunctions: they join clauses together. Whoever, whatever and whichever are also relative pronouns: they can be the subjects or objects of clauses. [whoever etc + clause + clause clause + whoever etc + clause] Whoever telephones, tell them I’m out. I’m…

quiet / silent

The basic difference is that quiet can mean little or no noise, but silent means ZERO noise. If you describe somebody as quiet, it means that person doesn’t talk very much. People can also talk quietly (with a very low volume) but it’s impossible to talk silently!

delay / late / postpone

Late is an adjective and an adverb, describing an event that happened after the correct time: We had a late breakfast at 10:00. (the usual time for breakfast is earlier, around 7-9 AM) The bus arrived thirty minutes late. (the bus arrived thirty minutes after the correct time on the schedule) Avoid this common error:…

pass away / pass out

You definitely don’t want to get these two phrasal verbs confused! Pass away is an indirect way to say someone died: My grandfather passed away yesterday. The funeral is this weekend. Rachel passed away after a long battle with cancer. Pass out has two meanings: 1. To lose consciousness He was so exhausted and dehydrated…

baggage / luggage

These words are the same. Both of them refer to the collection of suitcases/bags you take with you while traveling. Both of them are uncountable nouns, so don’t use “a” or make them plural: I have three luggages. I have three pieces of luggage. I accidentally left a baggage at the hotel. I accidentally left…

to / for

Use TO in these cases: 1. Destination “We’re going to Paris.” 2. What time it is “It’s a quarter to 6.” 3. Distance “It’s about ten miles from my house to the university.” 4. Comparing “I prefer sleeping to working.” 5. Giving “I gave the book to my sister.” 6. Motive/Reason – with verb “I…

apologize / sorry

Both of these words express regret for some problem or something you did wrong. I’m sorry is less formal, and “I apologize” is more formal. There are a few different ways to continue the sentence. You can say: I’m sorry (that) I yelled at you. I’m sorry for yelling at you. I apologize for yelling…

tide / waves

Waves are the raised swells of water that move along the surface of the ocean. At the beach, surfers ride on the waves: The size of the waves depends on the general movement of the ocean water in the area, the shape of the sea floor, and whether there are storms or strong winds that…

also / as well / too

These words are all used to show similarity or sameness: Jeff plays soccer. Greg plays soccer, too. Jeff plays soccer. Greg also plays soccer. Jeff plays soccer. Greg plays soccer as well. The only difference is in their placement in the sentence. Too and as well are used at the end of a sentence. (As…

may / might

The difference between may and might is very small: Use may when the event is slightly more likely to happen: “What are you doing this weekend?” “Shopping! I’m going to buy some new clothes, and I may get a new hat as well.” (it’s slightly more probable that I will buy the hat) “What are…

especially / specially

Use especially when something stands out from all the others (similar to the meaning of “particularly.”) The whole book was terrible – especially the ending. He loves animals, especially dogs. I can’t wait for the trip to New York. I’m especially looking forward to seeing the Statue of Liberty. Especially can also be used before…

almost / mostly / nearly

Nearly and almost are essentially the same. They mean that somebody or something came close to doing something… but did not do it. For example, if Jane is running in a race and came in second place, just a couple of seconds behind the winner, then you could say: Jane almost won the race. =…

girl / lady / woman

In the past, the distinction between lady and woman used to be clearer: woman = general word for a female adult man = general word for a male adult lady = an honorable woman with good manners and refined behavior gentleman = an honorable man with good manners and refined behavior Nowadays, however, there is…

decline / deny / refuse / reject

To deny something is to say something is not true, or say that you DID NOT do something: The teenager denied stealing the DVDs from the store. The businessman denied the accusations that he had stolen money from the company. (He said he didn’t do it) To refuse is NOT to do something, or to…

close to / near / next to

If two things are next to each other, it means they are immediately beside each other: Ex) There’s a bank next to my house. With the word “next,” we always use “to”: Don’t say “There’s a bank next my house.” If two things are near or close to each other, it means they are in…

bother / disturb

To disturb means to interfere with something that is at rest or at peace. For example, throwing a stone into a calm lake would disturb the surface of the water. To bother specifically means to annoy somebody. Imagine you are trying to study and your kids keep coming into your room and making noise. In…

angry / upset

If someone is upset, it means they are in an agitated mental or emotional state. If somebody is angry, it means they are NOT happy, they are hostile. Being angry is stronger than being upset. If somebody accidentally spilled coffee all over your new clothes, you would probably be upset (because it is inconvenient to…